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Port: Yes, carbon capture really is progress

It may not be the specific type of progress that progressive activists want, but it's having a real impact on carbon emissions.

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MINOT, N.D. — Scott Skokos is a professional political operative working for a left-wing, dark money group called the Dakota Resource Council, which spends thousands and thousands of dollars on activism aimed at attacking North Dakota's energy industry.

Who gives money to this group? We don't know. Per their Form 990, filed with the IRS, the DRC doesn't disclose their donors. As a result, we don't know whose dirty work Skokos and the DRC are doing.

But when Skokos opposes emerging technology like carbon capture, because it might help the coal and oil and gas companies that employ thousands and thousands of North Dakota, we can probably make a pretty good guess.

And yes, he really said that. “We as an organization think it’s antithetical to combating climate change because essentially it keeps the same industries in place and because it could have the unintended consequence of increasing emissions,” he told a KFYR reporter about carbon capture projects in the state.

"It keeps the same industries in place."

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As in, it doesn't bankrupt those industries, so they can be replaced by something else, which is what Skokos would clearly prefer.

I noted Skokos' comments in a column about progressives opposing progress .

Now Skokos, upset about being quoted accurately, fires back with a letter to the editor accusing me of being some shill for big oil, blah, blah, etc., etc.

Ideologues can be so tiresome, can't they? By the way, per his group's IRS disclosures, Skokos is making almost $70,000 per year, and I have to say that the DRC is probably overpaying given the quality product he's providing.

Anyway, Skokos argues in his letter that "the jury is still out on whether or not carbon capture is progress."

But is it?

Back in July, I was joined, on my Plain Talk podcast, by Gerald Bachmeier, the chief executive officer of Red Trail Energy. We talked about his company's implementation of carbon capture technology which is currently capturing, and sequestering, 100% of the carbon emitted by the fermentation process at their ethanol facility near Richardton.

That's about 180,000 metric tons of CO2 kept out of the atmosphere every year. Bachmeier told me the next phase is to capture the carbon coming off their heating systems, at which point their facility will be nearly carbon zero.

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That's just one early success story for carbon capture in North Dakota, and if that's not progress, then what is?

And yes, carbon capture is heavily subsidized by the government, and yes Skokos thinks that's a problem, but that's the political reality we live in. Our energy markets have been severely distorted by trillions of dollars in subsidies spent on replacing baseload coal and nuclear power with intermittent, unreliable energy from wind turbines and solar panels.

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I wish we didn't have to subsidize carbon capture, but I also know we can't stand by and watch our baseload power sources get shuttered, and our energy supplies grow more expensive and unreliable, in pursuit of an unworkable fairy tale future in which we get all our power from the wind and the sun.

We are also obliged to deal with the external costs of carbon-emitting industries, whether it's burning coal for power or making ethanol or making widgets in a factory. Carbon capture subsidies is one way in which we can do that.

The impact of human activity on the climate is very, very real. Left-wing environmentalists want to deal with that through restrictions on our consumption, and how we live our lives, but there are better ways.

Carbon capture is one of those ways.

You'd think that Skokos, whose organization talks endlessly about the threat of carbon emissions, would be happy to see so much support, from both the private sector and the government, coalescing around a practical push toward the reduction of carbon emissions.

But they don't, unfortunately, because they're bogged down in their hatred for coal and oil and gas, and can't seem to find their way out of that ideological swamp to a more pragmatic high ground.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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